Friday FOIA Stuff

As part of the continuing effort to demonstrate, and encourage, making use of the federal FOIA law, this is yet another episode of Friday FOIA Stuff. This week I’ve been busy doing a bunch of other stuff, but Freedom of Information-related activity wasn’t completely absent. Though I didn’t manage to file any new requests this week, there is still stuff to talk about – some of it even halfway positive.

I’ve still received no response from the British Ministry of Defense, who appear intent on, as usual, replying on the 20th business day. Not terribly surprising, but slightly annoying. More annoying, I’ve yet to receive a response to one of my FBI requests from several weeks ago – but did get a response to the second, for records from the Minneapolis Field Office (whose FOIA requests are processed by Bureau headquarters), advising me no records were found in the central records system at FBI Headquarters. So, lucky me, I get to whip off a letter, to determine whether they processed my request incorrectly, or sent me the wrong form letter.

Tyndall Air Force Base, to whom I sent a request, documented in last week’s post, for a training program on National Security Special Events, and who had previously acknowledged my request by phone, sent me a letter this week informing me the request has been referred to the headquarters of the Air Combat Command for processing. I get the impression that Tyndall’s FOIA staff don’t handle a lot of FOIA requests, and are perhaps not the most experienced folks in the business. Lest you think I’m just making stuff up, they sent me this (form) letter via Certified Mail with a “return receipt”. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, guys? Way to waste money…

The Department of Homeland Security, on the other hand, came through with the 2007 FOIA logs for the National Protection and Programs Directorate, or NPPD. They managed this in under fourteen business days – and despite, last week, advising me they needed an extra ten days because of the “complexity” of the request. You can see the results right here, in a 467KB PDF file.

As an aside, DHS’ snail-mail handling leaves a lot to be desired. Not only does it routinely take ten days for letters to be “received” by them, but a lot of their outgoing mail doesn’t get postmarked – and so, presumably, mailed – until four, five, or even six days after it’s “sent”. This led to the horribly confusing circumstances where I received, in response to a request: an acknowledgment letter on one day; another acknowledgment letter, informing me my request was being forwarded to the people who sent the first letter, dated a day earlier than the first, but postmarked six days later, and received two days after; and a “no records found” response, dated five days after the first response I received, but postmarked and received at the same time as the second acknowledgment letter. Confused? I know I am…

Next week: More goodies (hopefully), requests to the Army, and a depressing demonstration that the organization of DHS is so confusing that even their components can’t figure out who’s in charge of what.

Effort expended this week on FOIA stuff: Fifteen minutes to draft and send a fax, clarifying the FBI’s response to one request. Expense: Two tylenol, to help with headache caused by DHS, and one moment of existential panic, wondering why on earth the Air Force was sending me a certified letter. (Hmmn, I wonder if “dread” or “emotional trauma” are deductible business expenses…)

Published in: Geekiness, General, Security | on February 1st, 2008| Comments Off on Friday FOIA Stuff

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